The great Solemnity of The Ascension of the Lord was celebrated last Thursday 21stMay with quiet dignity and gentility. No fuss, no pizzazz, no headlines in the Jerusalem Echo or the Somerset Times mentioning that Jesus, whose execution had been witnesses by crowds of people, who had been seen alive three days later and had continued to appear to his close friends and family during the next forty days, nor was it reported that while with his followers he was lifted from their midst and rose from the earth until he could no longer be seen with the naked eye.
Until that moment, the apostles and disciples had thought that Jesus was to ‘restore the kingdom to Israel,’ but they were wrong, as his kingdom ‘was not of this world’ as we now know. For three years the followers of Jesus had been instructed on the path in life they were to take; they had witnessed the healing power of Jesus day after day, miracle after miracle, words of wisdom which confounded his enemies, and yet, seemingly, they were not receiving the message that Jesus was not seeking political influence. He wasn’t going to don a military uniform and kick out the Romans! He wasn’t going to sort out the corruption that pervaded the subjugated state of Israel, although he had referred to the people at the time as a ‘perverse generation’!
The fight for Jewish freedom was going to happen, but not led by the Son of God whose desire was for peace, the salvation of souls, a reunification of the disenfranchised, namely the children of God with God! Jesus confirmed his intention to free the people of Israel from slavery to sin by offering himself as the perfect sacrifice, the only ransom acceptable to his Father to gain freedom from eternal separation from God.
However, the movement for freedom from the Roman sword did end in war, the First Jewish-Roman War, often called The Great Revolt, 66-70 AD. It started in the Judaea Province and ended with the Roman Empire winning. It began in 66 AD in Caesarea with tension between the Greek and Jewish population; it then turned into an anti-taxation protest, and was further inflamed by the Greeks sacrificing animals in front of the Jewish Synagogue, which resulted in the Jews ceasing to offer sacrifices to the Roman Emperor. Because of that insult the Romans sent General Gallus to crush the rebels, but the General lost a crucial battle at Beth Horon in 68 AD. The Emperor Nero then replaced Gallus with Vespasian who crushed the Jewish leadership and the rebellion began to fall apart. Later that year Nero was deposed, the Roman forces besieged Jerusalem, and by 70 AD had breached the walls of the city, and that is when the great blood-bath occurred. Jerusalem was ransacked, the Second Temple was destroyed along with tens of thousands of its citizens. The final stronghold at Masada in the Judaean Desert was taken in 73 AD, and when the Roman soldiers broke through the defences, they discovered that all the defenders had committed suicide. According to Josephus, the final death toll was over a million, but Josephus, a great historian who witnessed and recorded the wars [some say from both sides] was often wrong about numbers, perhaps maths was his weak subject. His book ‘the Jewish Wars’ is always obtainable, and well-worth a read.
The glory Jesus sought was not military glory but the glory of eternal life for all his people, a glory that Jesus wanted for the people of this world who had been entrusted to him by his Father. To quote from today’s Gospel reading, Jesus said to his Father:
“I do not ask about the world, but about those whom you gave me, because they are yours. And everything that is mine is yours, and what’s yours is mine –and I am glorified in them”.
We are the body of Christ, we are glorified in Him. Human glory or accolade is as nothing compared with the divine glory we are promised in the world to come. Once we have attained our place in Heaven, peace will reign.
Meanwhile back here on earth, the need for weapons of defence will still be evident, as children demonstrate constantly. From a very early age, children have an instinct for survival and an instinct to protect what belongs to them. They resist offering sweets to others; if another child grabs one of their toys, it is immediately snatched back, tears ensue, and sometimes no amount of coaxing will encourage children to share. They may not be able to converse with one another or walk very well, but through tears and shouting they can express their feelings very well, thank you! The children’s motto ‘What’s mine is mine!’ is universal.
When it comes to ‘battling with each other’, Training at Arms has usually begun long before school age, and such development is assisted by fairy stories and children’s books which fire a child’s imagination. The goodies and baddies are well defined, and the exciting stories which children hear, or read about are enacted during play. In my youth, mobile phones, I-pads and the games associated with such electronic toys were unimaginable, and as far as I can remember Dan Dare and his enemies the ‘Mekons’ as told in ‘The Eagle’ comic didn’t have anything so flashy to assist them in their ‘Space Wars’. It wasn’t until the TV series Star Trek was aired that mobile phones became a necessity for every living person on the planet. Anyway, let’s get back to the pre-electronic and far less expensive days of my youth.
Those were the comparatively halcyon days of the ‘Cane Wars’. What were the ‘Cane Wars.’ You’ve guessed it! They were wars fought with canes, ….. bamboo canes! They could be purchased from any ironmonger’s shop. [can’t remember seeing any Garden Centres in the late 40’s and early 50’s]. It’s true that gardeners bought them by the score, but they were so durable and so cheap that as a child’s toy they were every child’s favourite weapon. They came in differing sizes and substituted as swords, javelins, bows and arrows [the arrows could be sharpened to a degree, but as a bamboo cane was hollow, it couldn’t stick in anything (or anyone for that matter)] but the most effective use of the weapon was as a form of sling shot. The projectile was harmless, as, more often than not it was an apple, preferably half rotten. The means of propulsion? Child muscle-power!!
The procedure was simple. Place the apple on the ground, insert the cane as near to the core of the apple as possible but not directly into the core, as that could result in friction thereby hampering a smooth release of the projectile and limiting the distance required. The longer the cane, the greater the distance achievable, but the technique needs considerable practice. Imagine the position of a bowler in cricket, in particular the position of the bowlers arm as the ball is released from the hand; that should be the position of the cane as the apple is released, and that is the moment when every ounce of energy is transferred from the shoulder to the hand, and with a sharp whipping action, transferring that energy along the cane to the apple which should fly off the end of the cane with tremendous speed. A bowler practices constantly to achieve the direction he/she needs, and that is the dedication required to perfect the sling shot of an apple.
Where does one find the apple munition, and is there a substitute easily obtainable? The apple munition was simple in my case, as our garden was full of apple trees, and therefore ‘fallers’ and rotten apples still on the branches were the only apples used: the best substitute was mud! easily available, and a hand-whisk and a strong bowl was all that was needed to manufacture the projectile. Such equipment is readily available in most kitchens.
Next week there will be a guide on where to find ‘slow worms’ or grass snakes as they are sometimes called, and how to avoid upsetting the neighbours.
All parishes received an email from Bishop Declan last week the subject being Pentecost Sunday – Rosary Mission. It reads:
As a Dioceses we have had a request from Monsignor John Armitage from the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, to participate in a May Rosary Mission on Pentecost Sunday (31st. May). Each Diocese in England, Wales and Scotland has been allotted an hour in which the Rosary will be prayed either individually or in family groups. The hour allotted to Clifton is 1pm. At that time the Rosary will be live streamed from the Cathedral.
Bishop Declan wishes that as many parishioners as possible will join in to pray the Rosary next Sunday wherever they are.
The Bishop sends his best wishes.